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1. As Khrushchev has pointed out, disarmament is the paramount question of our relations. Questions of Germany and Berlin are second-ary in comparison. They and the question of European security can be approached in a more promising context when progress is made in disarmament.

2. Aspects of the situation in Berlin and Germany are unsatisfactory to the Western powers as well as to the Soviet Union but nothing is intolerable to either; the security interests of the Soviet Union are not threatened.

3. The wisest course is to leave the situation alone until arms reduction makes solutions easier.

4. The association of West Germany in NATO and other forms of European integration should alleviate instead of exacerbate Soviet concern. West Germany has accepted significant limitations on its sovereignty and institutionalized the defensive nature of its armament.

5. Khrushchev may recall that by his menacing policy Stalin was primarily responsible for creating what he least desired, a [coalition of Western European powers and the United States.

6. Khrushchev might seriously ponder the effect that unilateral Soviet moves in Germany might have. The restraints which Chancellor Adenauer has exercised in his conduct of German affairs should not be taken for granted--nor could the Soviet Union assume that Adenauer or his successors would be able to exercise them regardless of Soviet actions. Soviet moves might well make such policies untenable in Germany and might bring about the developments in Germany the USSR seeks most to avoid.

7. In Berlin the U.S. has undertaken firm commitments and obligations together with its allies. It must and will honor its commitments regardless of the cost.

8. If Khrushchev defends the "free city" proposal, the President might state that the U.S. is not prepared to make the fulfillment of its commitments dependent solely on the will of the Soviet Union.

9. As Khrushchev will doubtless press the matter, we should be prepared to say that we will undertake negotiation of the problems of Berlin and Germany at a suitable time, but only as part of a broader discussion of problems of concern to both of us.


1. There are a few reports intimating that the USSR intends to protract the Geneva Conference on Laos in order that Premier Khrushchev may seek to "settle" basic issues bilaterally in his talks with the President, despite the mutual understanding that these talks are only exchanges of views. Whether there is any real basis for such reports is unclear. However, it is probable that (a) a violent, military scuttling of the cease-fire by the Communists will not occur prior to June 3, (b) Premier Khrushchev will raise the problem of Laos in such a manner as to seek some U.S. "agreement" on ways to settle this problem, (c) the present Royal Lao Government under Prime Minister Boun Oum will still be in office, and (d) the Geneva Conference will still be under way.

2. The President might welcome both statements that the USSR, like the U.S., seeks a truly neutral Laos and USSR moves, in the capacity of co-Chairman, to seek a peaceful settlement through the present Conference. Since that Conference is in session for the expressed purpose of resolving the Laotian problem, it would be inappropriate to attempt to shift negotiations to the Vienna meeting. However, the President might note that the co-Chairmen's instructions to the ICC, which led to its recent return to Laos, stated the ICC's basic tasks would be, first, "fixing the cease-fire" and, secondly, exercising control over the execution of an agreement to be negotiated among the belligerent parties on questions related to the cease-fire. Despite these instructions, Pathet Lao represent-atives, in talks convened to discuss "questions connected with the cease-fire," insist that arrangements for a coalition government must be negotiated before cease-fire questions can be resolved. In the U.S. view, the USSR is in a key position, both by virtue of its contacts with the Pathet Lao and in its capacity as a co-Chairman, to persuade the Pathet Lao and Souvanna Phouma/2/ elements to negotiate agreements on questions related to the cease-fire promptly in order that the ICC may properly discharge the co-Chairmen's instructions.

/2/Prince Souvanna Phouma, leader of Laotian neutralists.

3. The U.S. agreed to attend the Geneva Conference on the express understanding that a properly verified cease-fire existed before the Conference was convened, and it was the assumption of the United States that the ICC would be able to carry out its continuing verification functions during the Conference in accordance with the instructions of the Geneva co-Chairmen to the ICC. The attempt of the Pathet Lao and Souvanna group negotiators at Ban Namone to introduce substantive discussions into the talks there as a precondition to negotiations on matters pertaining to the cease-fire is preventing the ICC from operating in the manner contemplated.


74. Editorial Note

In telegram 2887 from Moscow, May 24, 1961, Ambassador Thompson reported that the previous evening Chairman Khrushchev had told him that "if no agreement is reached on Berlin they Soviet Union would sign separate peace treaty in fall or winter after West German elections and probably after Soviet Party Congress. This would end our occupation rights and East Germans would control communications. He realized this would bring period of great tension but he was convinced would not lead to war." For text of telegram 2887, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume XIV, pages 66-69.


75. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, May 25, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 601.6111/5-2561. Secret. Drafted by Edward I. Killham (SOV); concurred in by Bohlen, Tubby, Coombs, Whitman, Chayes, H, SCA, and S/EWC; and transmitted through and initialed by Bowles. None of the tabs is printed.

United States Travel Restrictions


To determine whether we should revise our present restrictions on the travel of Soviet citizens in this country.


In 1952, the United States retaliated against long-standing Soviet restrictions on the travel of American citizens in the USSR by requiring that Soviet officials in the United States give advance notification of travel outside the immediate area of New York and Washington. If the Department denied permission, the trip had to be cancelled. In 1955, the requirement was extended to all Soviet citizens other than those who were members of the UN Secretariat. Closed zones, modeled on those in existence in the USSR, were also established. This followed adoption by the NSC of NSC 5427 (Tab E)/2/ which provided that "restrictions should be placed upon diplomatic and official representatives of Soviet bloc countries in the United States on the basis of strict reciprocity for restrictions placed upon U.S. representatives in each Soviet bloc country."

/2/Not printed, but see Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. VIII, footnote 9, p. 1246.

On November 11, 1957, the United States proposed to the Soviet Government that closed zones be abolished on the basis of reciprocity./3/ Subsequently, we have repeated that proposal several times and have also suggested partial elimination, again on a reciprocal basis. The United States last repeated these offers in a note of January 6, 1961/4/ which made a number of changes in the American closed zones in response to the Soviet changes announced in August 1959.

/3/For text of this note, see Department of State Bulletin, December 9, 1957, pp. 934-935.

/4/For text of this note, see ibid., January 23, 1961, pp. 119-120.

The Soviet Government has never replied officially to these proposals although there have been unofficial intimations from Soviet officials that the question was being studied. Ambassador Menshikov's statement to you on February 3/5/ that his government has tried several times to approach the matter of lessening travel restrictions but had been prevented by unfavorable developments in its foreign relations is consistent with these earlier intimations. A summary statement concerning the history of the restrictions is attached (Tab B).

/5/See Document 21.


From time to time the Department has been under public pressure to abolish or reduce travel restrictions. The principal thrust of this pressure has been against individual restrictions which have prevented Soviet citizens from traveling to a particular area. The sources of the pressure have usually been American citizens who were inconvenienced by the inability of Soviet citizens to travel to their areas. There has also been a certain amount of pressure from individuals and groups which feel as a matter of principle that travel restrictions are alien to our way of life and should be abolished entirely.

The restrictions have on occasion been the source of difficulties for us by complicating the administration of the East-West Exchanges Program. Our attempts to cope with the situation have bred numerous exceptions, some of which we have been able to employ to gain reciprocal exemptions from the Soviet side. With regard to the Soviet restrictions on our Embassy staff in Moscow, however, the restrictions have been of only limited utility as a bargaining tool.

It should be noted here that the Soviet authorities sometimes exercise a certain amount of flexibility in permitting American exchange visitors and tourists to visit areas that are formally closed. As a consequence, these American visitors receive the impression that the Soviet restrictions are less onerous than they actually are. Also, the recent abandonment of advance censorship of the dispatches of foreign correspondents in the USSR indicates some sensitivity to our complaints over this practice and may presage similar steps in the field of travel.

Ambassador Thompson has previously opposed elimination of travel restrictions for exchange visitors because of his belief that important Soviet visitors are probably those most annoyed by the limitations. Such visitors, he has pointed out, are in all likelihood raising their influential voices against restrictions in the USSR. The Ambassador has now stated, however, that while up to now he has not advocated an exemption for Soviet exchange visitors, he would not oppose such action and believes it might enhance our overall position on exchanges with the Soviet Union.

Substantial easing of our travel restrictions at this time may call forth strong protests from some parts of Congress and public opinion which may express concern for its effect on security. The FBI may also oppose any significant lessening of the restrictions on the grounds that this would make their counterintelligence task more difficult.

On balance, it appears that we might gain some advantages if we could advance a sufficiently dramatic proposal for reduction of restrictions that would, simultaneously, protect our security interests. It is even conceivable that such a proposal could prod the Soviet Government into some easing of its restrictions on American travel in the USSR. In any case, it must be admitted that our efforts over the course of the past six years to use our travel restrictions as an instrument with which to exert pressure for a lessening of Soviet restrictions have been largely ineffective. Moreover, the passage of time has resulted in a blurred impression abroad of the responsibility for the initial imposition of travel restrictions. This has tended to remove any incentive the Soviet Government might once have had to consider a reciprocal reduction of restrictions. While we would weaken somewhat our ability to get reciprocal treatment in the negotiation of exchange itineraries, this disadvantage seems outweighed by the advantages.

If we should decide to withdraw some or all of our travel restrictions, there are three general possibilities to be considered.

1. We could withdraw the restrictions entirely, abolishing the closed zones as well as the notification requirement for Soviet officials. While this would undoubtedly have the greatest advantage from the propaganda standpoint, we do not believe it would succeed in inducing the Soviets reciprocally to lift their restrictions and we would have lost all of our leverage for protecting the ability of our officials to travel in the Soviet Union. Further, we would lose all control over the travel activities of the Soviet Embassy and UN Mission officials.

2. We could abolish closed zones for all but retain the notification requirement for permanently assigned officials. This would have nearly as much propaganda advantage as would lifting the restrictions altogether (since it is the closed zone concept which is the most controversial aspect of our travel regulations) and yet would enable us to retain effective control over Soviet travel through our ability to deny any given travel request under the notification system. While there would be a very slight security disadvantage from the fact that there would no longer be specified closed zones, it should be noted that the closed zone system offers very little real security in any event as the Soviets are able to obtain information through many sources, including other bloc travelers not subject to closed zone regulations and from American Communist agents.

3. We could abolish the closed zones for exchange visitors and tourists but retain them for officials, who would, in addition, continue to be subject to the notification procedure. This would also bring some propaganda benefit, and would largely remove the present friction with university and exchange-minded groups. (It is true that some friction may continue in those cases in which the Department decides to control the itineraries of visiting Soviet nationals for security or other reasons, but this should be manageable.) At the same time, it would enable us to retain our present controls over the most important categories of Soviets, the officials permanently assigned here, and would also probably retain for us some leverage in protecting the travel of our own officials in the Soviet Union. Since exchange groups travel on the basis of mutually agreed itineraries, control of such travel would remain in our hands and access to any part of the country could be denied if this were thought desirable for security reasons. As the itineraries of Soviet tourists in the United States are arranged by American travel agencies, we would also maintain effective control over such travel. Soviet buyers and other "businessmen" would continue to be controlled, as they are now, via the advance itineraries they are required to submit.

For travel control purposes we regard Soviet correspondents, Intourist and Amtorg representatives, whether or not permanently assigned, as officials. They are subject to the same notification requirements as Soviet Embassy and UN Mission personnel. This category also includes Soviet citizens who apply for visas in order to visit Soviet officials on a "personal" basis. This corresponds to the position in the USSR of American correspondents, American Express Company representatives and personal guests of American officials.

It has been suggested that, if we decide to reduce our restrictions, we do so only for a stipulated period of perhaps one year, with the understanding that they would be resumed if the Soviet Government failed to respond to our initiative. This appears to us seriously to reduce the impact we might achieve with such an overture by casting doubt on our sincerity. At the same time, it seems unlikely that it would appreciably strengthen our bargaining position. Were the Soviet Government to fail to ease its own restrictions, we should have to reinstitute our own with the negative political effect this would have. It would seem preferable not to lift the restrictions at all rather than to go through this procedure.)


We believe that the third alternative is the most advantageous of the three and recommend your approval of it. We would retain virtually the same degree of effective control over Soviet travel as we do now, while removing the greatest source of friction with American groups. This alternative also preserves our bargaining position on strictly official travel which may be of assistance in attempting to ensure reciprocity for our officials in the USSR while, at the same time, enabling us to gain an important propaganda advantage. We could announce such a decision as another modest but forward-looking step in the direction of more normal relations with the Soviet Government and invite it to respond to our initiative.

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P34

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